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Trump Directs Agencies To Identify How Much Aid The U.S. Gives Mexico

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The president has long promised that Mexico will pay for the border wall in one way or another. One suggestion is that the U.S. could recoup some of that money by withholding funds it's slated to send to Mexico in coming years.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Last month, President Trump told federal departments and agencies to tally up the money they send to Mexico in the form of aid and assistance. The deadline to report those findings to the secretary of state is tomorrow.

CORNISH: We also wanted to know how much the U.S. gives Mexico each year, so we called up Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America. They're a human rights group. Meyer says the U.S. sends just over $300 million a year.

MAUREEN MEYER: Most of it is really directed to strengthening Mexico's civilian policing forces, combating corruption and focus on, you know, addressing drug trafficking in Mexico and in the security crisis that different parts of the Mexican countryside and the cities are experiencing.

SHAPIRO: For the most part, she says the U.S. sends this money out of its own national security interests.

CORNISH: Maureen Meyer says the aid is also a sign of goodwill and cooperation in terms of sharing the burden of the drug war, which many Mexicans say is spurred by demand from the U.S.

MEYER: Over 150 thousand people have died in the past decade in Mexico in the so-called war on drugs.

SHAPIRO: These are not just priorities for the U.S. She says they're critical to Mexico, too.

MEYER: The amount of money that Mexico spends on security a year is up in the billions. So U.S. support is in a sense a drop in the bucket.

SHAPIRO: That's Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America talking about the $300 million in aid the U.S. sends Mexico each year. Estimates say the cost of the proposed border wall is around $20 billion.

(SOUNDBITE OF BK-ONE AND BENZILLA SONG, "TEMA DO CANIBAL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.